American money

How much money it takes to be ‘financially comfortable’

The phrase “financially comfortable” can mean different things to different people, whether that’s having enough money to stay out of debt or being able to buy a second home.

One thing is certain: The amount of money Americans say makes you financially comfortable changes depending on where you live.

The amount varies by almost $1 million between cities, according to an analysis of 13 major U.S. metropolitan areas by financial services company Charles Schwab.

Here’s a look at the net worth residents of each city say you need to be considered financially comfortable in 2023, ranked by net worth thresholds:

  1. San Francisco: $1.7 million
  2. Southern California (includes Los Angeles and San Diego): $1.5 million
  3. New York City: $1.2 million
  4. Seattle: $1 million
  5. Washington, D.C.: $1 million
  6. Boston: $932,000
  7. Dallas: $820,000
  8. Chicago: $817,000
  9. Atlanta: $729,000
  10. Denver: $710,000
  11. Phoenix: $653,000
  12. Houston: $606,000

Net worth is defined as the total value of assets a person or corporation owns, minus the liabilities they owe.

While the amounts on this list are high, keep in mind that most cities listed also have a relatively high cost of living. In many, the cost of living is 50% or more above the U.S. average, according an analysis by personal finance website Kiplinger.

A lot of that has to do with housing costs. San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles are some of the most expensive places to live in the country. While the median home price in the U.S. overall is currently $436,800, the median in these cities sits closer to $1 million, according to Redfin data.

It seems likely not many people actually reach these thresholds, either, since the overall U.S. median household net worth is $121,700, according to the Federal Reserve’s most recent data

For the purposes of the study, feeling financially comfortable is considered different from feeling rich. When survey respondents were asked how much they needed money to feel wealthy, the numbers were much higher. They ranged from $2.5 million in Denver to $4.7 million in San Francisco — the highest amount of all cities listed.

The online survey was conducted in March, with a sample of 500 to 750 local residents for each metropolitan area, between the ages of 21 and 75.

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